CAMPAIGNERS have reacted with dismay to the government’s decision to plough ahead with a £32 billion high speed rail link through protected Chilterns countryside.
The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust labelled it an ‘utter disgrace’ and the Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside group vowed ‘we cannot rule out a legal challenge’.
But the Campaign to Protect Rural England welcomed the announcement for ‘being sensitive to the landscape’.
Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the campaign, said: “We are pleased the government has shown its commitment to Britain’s railways while being sensitive to the impact that HS2 will have on communities and the countryside.
However, Mr Spiers urged the coalition to consider reducing the speed of the trains to save the line from having to be so straight.
He said: “CPRE would like to see flexibility on the maximum design speed to allow more sensitive routing with greater curvature of the track.
“This will allow for necessary alterations following further local consultation.
“But the government deserves congratulation for showing commitment to the future of our railways and to addressing regional economic imbalances, rather than concentrating development in the South East.”
In contrast Philippa Lyons, the chief executive of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, fumed: “It is an utter disgrace that the government is not facing up to its responsibilities to biodiversity and the natural environment, and continues to dismiss the environmental impacts of this route on vulnerable wildlife habitats.”
Alison Doggett, chairman of the Chiltern Society, said: “HS2 is just one part of a big national picture which has a lot of pieces missing – the proposal laid before us does not give us the confidence to accept, deep down, that the sacrifices that we are being asked to make are truly in the national interest.”
Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside said it ‘will be considering legal action in light of the government’s announcement’.
Spokesman Mark Adams said: “We’re disappointed the government has not provided full environmental mitigation for the Chilterns and do not feel a robust case has been made.”